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AUSTIN, FORT WORTH, HOUSTON, SAN ANTONIO
YES, CAROL BURNETT IS A TEXAN, and in the most valid sense of the term (she was born here). Though she moved from San Antonio to Hollywood at age seven, we don’t begrudge California for nurturing one of our most talented exports. But she’ll be all ours once again this month for a quartet of appearances, or what she calls “conversations,” in which audience members are encouraged to stand up and shout out their inquiries to the comedic queen. Is there any other celebrity so approachable? (She even called us herself—look, Ma, no handlers!—to schedule an interview.) Her candor has always been her strong suit, so we’re letting Ms. Burnett speak for herself.
I’m looking forward to coming back to my home state. Being a Texan is in your blood; I’m not even trying to escape it. I have strong memories of San Antonio. We lived on West Commerce Street, and our old house is still there. Back then my grandmother wouldn’t let me roller-skate in front of the house because the sidewalk was all crumbled up. So I skated in the hallway, which wasn’t quite level either. Last time I visited, the skate marks were still there, even though the people who lived there had tried to buff them out.
I remember Joske’s department store, the stuffed gorilla in the window of the Buckhorn Saloon that just terrified me, and, of course, the Alamo—luckily, I didn’t have to fight in it. I went to David Crockett grammar school, and the first time I performed, I was a blue fairy in a skit that we did on Pinocchio. My grandmother made me a gold wand out of a stick.
Doing these shows is like doing a crossword puzzle—they keep my brain active—and it’s just time to get back onstage. I don’t know what people are going to ask, so it’s fun. One time, I forget where, I called on this nice-looking man in a suit and tie. And he said, “It happens to be my birthday, and I really have always found you very, very attractive.” So I said, “Oh, get on up here,” thinking it would be fun to play with him. So he came to hug me, and I said, “Just a minute. We haven’t been introduced.” He apologized and told me his name was Bob and started again to give me a hug. And I said, “You’re a little overanxious here, Bob. Have you ever thought in terms of an older woman before?” And he kind of blushed, and I said, “What is it, Bob? Are you involved with someone else?” “Sort of,” he said. “I’m a priest.” There were two or three nuns in the first row who just about laughed right out of their habits.
I’m donating my salary from these shows to the Pasadena Playhouse, a little ninety-seat theater in California that was just named in honor of my late daughter, Carrie, who passed away from cancer in 2002. She was thirty. It’s quite a legacy for my daughter. So I’m glad to get on solid Texas ground— although I haven’t worn high heels in forever, so I’m really worried about my feet more than anything. Of course, I could just take the darn shoes off.
Sep 26: Bass Concert Hall, 23rd & Robert Dedman Dr, Austin; 512-471-1444; utpac.org. Sep 28: Bass Performance Hall, 4th & Calhoun, Fort Worth; 877-212-4280; basshall.com. Sep 29: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, Houston; 713-227-4772; spahouston.org. Oct 1: Majestic Theatre, 224 E. Houston, San Antonio; 210-226-3333; majesticempire.com
The state’s musical psyche owes a lot to Lubbock, which has nurtured a wide swath of native talents and unconditionally welcomed creative outlaws. But these days, with most ears tuned to the sounds coming out of Austin and Houston, it’s easy to forget West Texas’s legendary contributions. A one-two punch this month jogs our collective memory: Buddy’s 70th Birthday Bash will send you back to rock and roll’s heyday, with music historian Bill Griggs acting as narrator of Buddy Holly’s life and musicians Patricia Vonne, Tommy Allsup, and Johnny Rogers jamming in his honor. And though Holly is not officially associated with the Lubbock Music Festival, held the very next weekend (his widow’s asking price for naming rights was too high), he’ll be there in spirit too, as Chubby Checker and ex–Red Raider Pat Green pick up where he left off. Buddy’s 70th Birthday Bash: Sep 7–9. Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Avenue G; 806-775-3560; buddyhollycenter.org. Lubbock Music Festival: Sep 15 & 16. Buddy Holly Ave & 19th, 806-747-5232, visitlubbock.org
Glasses—or plastic cups, as the case may be—will be aswirl with the finest Texas-produced wines and then some at the twentieth incarnation of GrapeFest, which seems like any other casual neighborhood progressive except for the quarter million “neighbors.” Shuttles scoot curious palates to and from Grapevine’s wineries and various tasting rooms; the designated driver is the four-day weekend’s unofficial hero. The same roving, possibly drunken taste buds are responsible for the taken-very-seriously People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, in which tens of thousands of oenophiles wield awesome power over the nerves—and bottom lines—of vintners in the nation’s largest consumer-judged wine competi- tion. But let’s be honest: The real battles are the hourly GrapeStomps, where you’ll find entrants of varying foot hygiene running a mini-marathon in place to mash twenty pounds of the purple pods into juice. You laugh, but is the coveted Purple Foot award on your mantel? Sep 7–10. Along Main, 800-457-6338, grapevinetexasusa.com/grapefest
No Snakes Here
Don’t be alarmed if while driving just north of Dallas you’re suddenly overtaken by fleets of multicolored, low-flying planes swooshing by upside down. These specially designed aircraft, which sometimes dive as low as 328 feet from the ground, are in good hands: Close to 150 highly skilled, highly daring pilots convene here each year for the United States Aerobatic Championships. In the competition, which has been likened to figure skating in the sky, pilots are judged on their ability to follow predetermined flight patterns or, in the more advanced categories, flights given to them a mere eighteen hours beforehand. The top five highest-scoring men and women in the unlimited skills category will show off their figures (eight, that is) at the World Aerobatic Championships in 2007. Sep 24–29. Grayson County Airport, 4700 Airport Dr; iac.org
Ministry of Truth
Knowing that Tim Robbins—Academy Award winner, Susan Sarandon’s other half, outspoken liberal—is at the helm of The Actors’ Gang goes a long way in explaining the L.A.-based “renegade” theater troupe’s modus operandi. Specializing in politically charged performances—recent plays bit into the death penalty and the media in Iraq—the group makes its debut in Houston this month with an intrepid reinterpretation of George Orwell’s 1984. In a departure from previous adaptations, the piece focuses on the book written by Big Brother’s enemy, Emmanuel Goldstein. Its premise? That an elite minority controls and exploits the masses through perpetual warfare. It’s not a stretch to see where director Robbins takes this; playgoers who don’t want recent world events thrown in their faces should proceed with caution. Sep 29 & 30. Wortham Theater Center, Cullen Theater, 501 Texas; 713-227-4772; spahouston.org
A Royal Ball
In 2002, led by veteran entertainer Cheech Marin, a collective of the country’s funniest Latino comedians—including actor Paul Rodriguez and a then-unknown George Lopez—crisscrossed the country with hopes of tickling America’s funny bone. These Latin Kings of Comedy, with their multilingual, culturally centered brand of wit (famously captured live in El Paso in the 2002 film The Original Latin Kings of Comedy), struck a nerve with audiences and turned Lopez into a household name. Now, with Rodriguez as elder and host, newcomers Luke Torres, Johnny Sanchez, and Dennis Gaxiola are hoping to duplicate Lopez’s success. Fame, unlike lightning, just may strike twice. Sep 29. Municipal Auditorium, 100 Auditorium Circle; 210-207-8500
The Austin City Limits Music Festival, the state’s most varied three days of music, is upon us again. Only you can create your perfect schedule, but if you don’t know where to start, keep this play-by-play highlight reel handy. Friday 4:30–5:30—Gnarls Barkley: Pure musical escapism with the costumed duo that owns the summer’s hottest hit, “Crazy.” 5:15–6:00—Okkervil River: Anger and melancholy from Austin’s indie rockers. 7:30–8:30—Ray LaMontagne: The soulful balladeer is slowly gaining a wider following. 8:30–10:00—Van Morrison: A marked country style tinges the 61-year-old’s latest, Pay the Devil. Saturday 11:45–12:30—Marah: An epidemic of dancing breaks out when this self-described working-class rock band performs. 2:30–3:30—Ben Kweller: Not all teen prodigies burn out, or so proves the young Texan whose fourth solo album drops this month. 6:30–7:30—The Raconteurs: Of Jack White’s two bands, this side-project-made-good is the one he wants to talk about. 8:15–9:15—Willie Nelson: You’ve seen him per- form, haven’t you? Sunday 2:30–3:30—KT Tunstall: Indie cred, instinctive appeal, and a steady VH1 rotation are boosting this Scottish lass. 4:30–5:30—Ween: The afternoon gets wacky when this Penn-based duo whips up a concerted dance party. 5:30–6:30—The New Pornographers: Witty pop-perfect rock served up by a Canadian collective. 8:30–10:00—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Thirty years later, it’s still a thrilling time to be a Petty fan. Sep 15–17. Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd; aclfestival.com
The Italian Job
Four months post–grand opening, the Blanton Museum of Art is soaring above the exceptional hype that comes with being the state’s third-largest art repository. The excitement of a great unveiling is swelling up again on the eve of the museum’s first major international showcase, “Luca Cambiaso, 1527–1585,” which will fill the ground-floor gallery with some sixty paintings and eighty drawings by the Italian master. In curator-speak, Cambiaso was the “virtual founder” of the Genoese school of painting, but it’s his use of nocturnal light, the cubic style of his later drawings, and the major altarpieces he crafted for well-to-do families that will catch a discerning eye. Seven paintings from the museum’s permanent collection that span the artist’s life, including several Madonna-and-child variations, serve as the show’s core, uniting the other works on loan from famed museums and churches. There’s never been a Cambiaso-only exhibit outside Italy—all the more reason to dawdle among the precisely organized masterpieces in this major retrospective. Curator Jonathan Bober explains that the Italian was one of the most under-recognized artists of his time. Lucky for Cambiaso, the Blanton is squarely in his corner. Sep 19–Jan 14. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd & Congress Ave, 512-471-7324, blantonmuseum.org
Since 1995 the Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery (PDNB is the streamlined moniker) had been selling intelligent, high-quality images out of a teeny-tiny converted house in Uptown. The space was certainly intimate—regulars knew that the front door jammed a bit, and it wasn’t unusual to overhear owners Burt and Missy Finger actively planning the next exhibition—but for all its charm, it outgrew itself. So PDNB is off to the Design District, just west of downtown, where the expanded quarters will be nestled in among other galleries—Conduit, Holly Johnson, Craighead-Green. The first show in the new digs welcomes Texas artist Stuart Allen to a stable of emerging young talents and historic figures. Allen’s minimalist, blown-up pixels of seascapes, eyes, and blood will be featured alongside never-been-seen photographs from Bill Owens’ seventies Working series, new offerings from gallery favorite Keith Carter, and a small showing of moody vintage prints by John Albok. The grand opening happens to coincide with the annual Dallas Art Dealers Association fall gallery walk, a perfect excuse to nose around the neighborhood. Sep 16. 1202 Dragon, 214-969-1852, photographsdonotbend.com
Ms. Smith Goes to Houston
The Inprint Brown Reading Series begins its season with Zadie Smith, the British author known for her precocity, graceful plotting, and three knockout novels. Her latest go-round—last year’s E.M. Forster homage, On Beauty—won the thirty-year-old England’s prestigious Orange Prize this summer. But a familiarity with Smith’s work is not required to be taken with her. Her self-deprecating wit, much-discussed beauty, and frank, salty candor should make for a revealing evening. Sep 17. Wortham Theater Center, Cullen Theater, 501 Texas; 713-521-2026; inprint-inc.org
Into the Wardrobe
The Neiman Marcus flagship downtown, that mecca of high style, is many a fashionista’s favorite place to prowl. Beginning this month, the sartorially curious will come upon another browser’s delight when Fashion on Main opens a mere two blocks down from the red-canopied retailer. The five-hundred-square-foot venue will serve as the primary exhibition space for the Texas Fashion Collection, some 15,000 dresses, suits, coats, purses, shoes, and haute couture confections that date from the early nineteenth century to the present and were created at the hands of master designers (there’s no buying here, ladies). Cristóbal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Dior, Norman Norell, Oscar de la Renta—these are no fashion lightweights. The stunning archive was started in 1938 by Stanley and Ed Marcus and was moved a few decades ago to the University of North Texas, in Denton. Though the bulk of the collection will remain there in climate-controlled rooms, the rotating exhibits in Dallas will let the masses peruse the silhouettes of decades past, starting with “Flights of Fancy,” thirty looks and accessories plumed with feathers. Because fashion is cyclical in the most self-referential way, this well-appointed inventory will be an indispensable harbinger of next season’s must-haves. Sep 22. 1901 Main, 469-939-7367, art.unt.edu/tfc
Seinfeld enthusiasts thirsty for more trivia and behind-the-scenes info on the long-running show need look no further: Kenny Kramer, the real-life eccentric who inspired the Cosmo Kramer character, has made it his mission to fill you in on all you’ve ever wanted to know. The former neighbor of Seinfeld co-creator and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David serves as a sort of bonus-footage tour guide, revealing how the hit show about nothing originated, whom each of the characters is based on, and which true events supplied material for the program. Outside of outtakes on future DVD releases, Kramer’s stand-up is the only new Seinfeld experience available. But don’t let that stop you from wishing the show would return to prime time. Sep 22. One World Theatre, 7701 Bee Caves Rd; 512-329-6753; oneworldtheatre.org